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Re: find position in a list made by string by searching incomplete

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  • Subject: [mg130372] Re: find position in a list made by string by searching incomplete
  • From: Alexei Boulbitch <Alexei.Boulbitch at>
  • Date: Sat, 6 Apr 2013 05:09:30 -0400 (EDT)
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I have a list of strings like
list1={{"a", "b    something", "a", "a", "b", "c", "b"}
In this list, 'something' is a sting that I will not know in advanced and
there are several spaces between the 'b' and the 'something' in one string.
The number of the spaces is unknown.

I want to find out the position of the this "b   something" sting in the
list. So, I did,

Position[list1, "b*"]

and I also tried,
Position[list1,"b"~~___ ]

both of them gave me {} as results.

Also Cases[list1,"b"~~___] or Cases[list1, "b*"] does not work. I can get
the correct position only if I give the exact "b    something" as the
searching pattern. What is the easiest way to search with a incomplete
string pattern in this case? Thanks for your help.


It will go easily, if you transform the list of strings (or characters) into the list of symbols:

list1 = {"a", "b    something", "a", "a", "b", "c", "b"}

{"a", "b    something", "a", "a", "b", "c", "b"}

list2 = Map[ToExpression, list1]

{a, b something, a, a, b, c, b}

Now, one can do it by several ways. For instance, this:

Position[list2, (b a_)]


One can use the fact that the special form of "b something" gives it a Head that differs from that of all other terms. Indeed,

Head /@ list2

{Symbol, Times, Symbol, Symbol, Symbol, Symbol, Symbol}

this item has the head Times, while the others - Symbol. We can, therefore, do the following:

Position[list2, Select[list2, Head[#] == Times &][[1]]]


or otherwise

Position[Head /@ list2, Times]


I guess that one can see also few other ways.

Have fun, Alexei

Alexei BOULBITCH, Dr., habil.
ZAE Weiergewan,
11, rue Edmond Reuter,
L-5326 Contern, LUXEMBOURG

Office phone :  +352-2454-2566
Office fax:       +352-2454-3566
mobile phone:  +49 151 52 40 66 44

e-mail: alexei.boulbitch at

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